Counterpoint: 20 Questions

Are we Israelis, fighting for Jewish survival in our ancestral homeland, damned either way?

david forman 88 (photo credit: )
david forman 88
(photo credit: )
When we were little kids, we played a game called 20 Questions, based on the 1950s television program by the same name. The objective is simple: One participant, designated as "it," chooses a person, place or object; and, everyone tries to guess what has been chosen by asking questions that can only be answered by "yes" or "no." The person can be living, deceased, or fictitious. The place can be anywhere in the world. The object can be inanimate, an animal, a food, etc. The game is actually very sophisticated, encouraging deductive reasoning. I would like to propose that we play 20 Questions, and I am willing to be it. Okay - I have chosen my subject. By the way, I want to exercise my right to alter some rules of the game, as is permitted in its traditional version. Rather than responding with just a simple yes or no, I will permit the participants to ask questions that might invite multiple answers. Let's begin. Question 1: Is it animal, mineral or vegetable - a place, a person or thing? Answer: None of the above; but it does relate to a place that has created a certain situation. 2: Is it Israel? No. 3: Is it a country adjacent to Israel? No. 4: Does it have anything to do with Gaza? Yes. 5: Now we're getting somewhere. You used the word "situation." Has it something to do with the discomfort we feel that Ehud Olmert is leading a war in Gaza - not only because of his failed leadership in the Second Lebanon War, but because he really should not be prime minister? Maybe. 6: Did we define a diplomatic goal for the war equal to a military goal for the war; that is, will the war make any real difference if there isn't a political settlement? Doesn't seem so. 7: Is there full coordination between the foreign minister and the defense minister? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. 8: Is the chief of General Staff fully on board with the political echelon? Most of the time. 9: Does the upcoming election affect our leaders' decisions? Could be. 10: Oh, no. To think that personal political gains might impact decision-making is pretty scary. So, let me ask this: Did we do enough before the war to try to broker an extension of the cease-fire with Hamas? Not entirely. 11: Might we have come up with another response than the present one? Perhaps 12: Why isn't there an official spokesman, like Chaim Herzog during the Six Day Way or Aharon Yariv during the Yom Kippur War or Nachman Shai during the Gulf War, individuals who, through their daily updates, can instill confidence and reassurance for a deeply fearful populace, instead of the never-ending bunch of talking-heads - generals and news commentators who give us one big Excedrin headache with their speculative and often contradictory drivel? Because there are not too many public figures of their stature nowadays. 13: With your permission, I would like to ask a few related questions, which should qualify as one long query. Is that okay (this is not a question, only a point of clarification)? Thanks. Didn't we have a right to respond? What country could tolerate a similar situation? Didn't the Russians kill hundreds of civilians in Georgia and Chechnya to put down their revolts? Are they not cutting off gas supplies to and through Ukraine, literally causing people to freeze to death? Didn't the Americans carpet bomb Falluja and Najaf at the outset of the Iraq war, killing thousands of innocents - far away from America's cities and towns? You're getting warmer. 14: Then let me pursue this line of questioning about our Arab neighbors. Why does the world sit quietly when last week more than 200 Muslims were killed by fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq; or, in the past when the late King Hussein of Jordan massacred 15,000 Palestinians in 1970; or, when the late Hafez Assad slaughtered 25,000 of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1982; or, when members of Fatah, while escaping from a Gaza jail after it was bombed by IAF planes, were mercilessly gunned down by Hamas, as were (and are) suspected collaborators; or, when Egyptian soldiers shoot Palestinians trying to escape to Egypt? Right on. 15: Why is the world demonstrating against Israel, displaying pictures of Osama bin Laden's comrades-in-arms, Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mashaal, as national heroes, instead of holding mass protests against terrorists (Islamic extremists) who stage their vicious attacks upon innocents in Mumbai, Bali, London, Madrid, Jordan, Egypt, the Twin Towers and Israel - to mention only a few? Good point. 16: On the other hand, is it just possible that the world is right, that our actions have been over-the-top, exaggerated, disproportionate - equal to committing war crimes? One could say yes, but not regarding war crimes. Hamas fighters cowardly wage their war under the cover of the civilian population. The international community should be pointing its finger at Hamas for committing war crimes. 17: If that's the case, then why do I still feel so guilty about what's going on? It's complicated. 18: Thanks a lot, as if I didn't know. Could it be that I sense that no matter how justified our war is with Hamas, that we are adopting the tactics of our enemy, or is there no choice but to fight Hamas according to its ground rules, thereby rationalizing away some of our objectively horrid behavior and, in the process, suspending all Jewish moral concerns, reducing us to a nation like any other nation? All the above. 19: Many say that we are responsible for this entire mess by our 40-year occupation, making life a living hell for the Palestinians, particularly for the residents of Gaza, because, despite the withdrawal of our troops and the dismantlement of the settlements there, we continued to control the borders surrounding the area. On the other hand, imagine how Israel might have reacted had Hamas, free of our presence, begun turning the Gaza Strip into a mini-Hong Kong. Israel would have opened up the sea, air and land corridors. Alas, Hamas seems incapable of opting for self-interest over hatred. So, here's my question: Was prime minister Golda Meir correct when she said, "Peace will come when Arabs will love their children more than they hate ours"? A distinct possibility. 20: All right, I am down to my last question: Could it be that we Israelis, who are fighting for Jewish survival in our ancestral homeland, are damned if we do and damned if we don't, not only in the court of international public opinion, but also on the diplomatic and military front, that is, there is no definitive answer to the current situation and it is all a conundrum? Wait a minute - that's it. It's a paradox, total perplexity, a quandary, where there are no moral absolutes, no right or wrong, no black or white. Simply put: It is an insoluble dilemma. Is that it, is that what you were thinking of - a conundrum? Bingo! You hit the nail on the head. But, to be absolutely accurate, add a few adjectives: It is one big, gigantic, humungous conundrum.